Accusations against Huawei won't hurt 5G roll-out, experts say

Shenzhen-based company has secured nearly 40 5G commercial contracts

A sign that reads "5G park" is seen inside the Huawei global headquarters in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province on December 18, 2018.   / AFP / Nicolas ASFOURI
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Accusations against Huawei, one of the biggest manufacturers of 5G equipment, of efforts to spy on behalf of the Chinese government by the US and some of its allies, will not jeopardise the global roll-out of the fifth-generation wireless network, according to experts and Huawei itself.

"I don't see any particular reason why [concerns raised by the US] should slow down the 5G roll-out," Mark Spelman, head of though leadership at World Economic Forum in Geneva, told The National.

“We should always remember that 5G involves a combination of so many things, such as fibers and base stations … this requires a huge ecosystem of systems and that will certainly involve multiple suppliers.”

Huawei, which has secured nearly 40 5G commercial contracts in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, is facing mounting global pressure - led by the US - over accusations that its equipment is not secure and facilitates espionage.

Following a campaign by the US, UK telecom BT has barred Huawei 5G equipment from its core network. Australia and New Zealand have also announced that they would not allow Huawei to be involved in building 5G systems in their countries.

However, one of the Chinese company’s executives said ‘no’ when asked whether these allegations can stop Huawei from expanding or will slow down the global roll-out of 5G.

"The clear answer is 'no'," Shenzhen-based Dr Mohamed Madkour, vice president - global wireless network marketing at Huawei, told The National.

“In fact, in the last few months, we have seen good growth in our carrier network business that is powered by 5G. Users’ data privacy and security are hurdles before the whole industry and if they are not addressed in the right way, it will limit the growth of innovation globally,” said Mr Madkour.

“If anybody is politicising the security issue, then he is distracted from the real issue,” added Mr Madkour.

Despite global pressure, Huawei is going strong. Last month, it said that it is aiming to boost its incomes further with 2019 seeing a widespread roll-out of the 5G network worldwide.

Analysts say that security concerns should be addressed in right way and equal opportunity should be provided to all players.

International Telecommunication Union, a specialised agency of the United Nations, said that allegations against Huawei are creating negative ripple effects on the whole industry.

"There are concerns … only last week in Geneva, a delegation told me that they have decided to not go for 5G because of security issues. So there is a negative effect," Houlin Zhao, secretary general of ITU, told The National.

“But, so far, I haven’t heard from any country that they will stop pursuing 5G out of any concern. It is not about one only company’s technology but it is a global technology.”

While emphasising customer privacy and cyber security, Khalifa Al Shamsi, chief corporate strategy and governance officer at Etisalat, said 5G will bring a wealth of opportunities in social economic transformation and this requires more than just ‘the right regulations in place".

“Governments do play a key role in demand stimulation ... with viable policies. But in addition to regulations and spectrum, there is a need to ... create an environment where all stakeholders in the region [in 5G] are treated equally with fair rules.”